Oral history interview with Norman R. Augustine

Oral history interview with Norman R. Augustine

  • 2020-Sep-22
  • 2020-Oct-15

Norman R. Augustine was born on July 27, 1935, in Denver, Colorado. An only child, he grew up just about on the prairie and loved spending time in the nearby mountains. His father fought in World War I, and Augustine remembers growing up during World War II—hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor, participating in air raid drills, and celebrating the end of the war with VJ Day. Augustine’s family valued education, and he enjoyed his high school classes, especially math and physics. After some targeted encouragement from Justin W. Brierly, the school’s self-appointed college guidance counselor, Augustine applied to Princeton University and was accepted. He originally planned to major in geological engineering but switched to aeronautical engineering after a drunken student he was trying to save from falling off a train told him aeronautical engineering was the future. Princeton focused on fundamentals and theory in aeronautical engineering, and because there were only nine aeronautical engineering students in the class, Augustine said it was like “private tutoring.” As part of his curriculum, he participated in flight testing and worked as a research assistant one year. Upon recommendation of the faculty, Augustine decided to pursue a master’s degree and stayed at Princeton because he had a nice fellowship. He wrote his graduate thesis on the dynamics and aerodynamics of a vectored slipstream aircraft with a double-slotted flap and built his own models, having learned woodworking from his grandfather. Upon graduation, Augustine took a position at Douglas Aircraft where he started first in a research group and then moved to development projects, working primarily on the Nike Zeus. He talks about transitioning to management, a missile launch that went wrong, and the early types of computers, including humans who computed.

After seven years of working at Douglas, the company’s new CEO decided to cut pay, so Augustine looked for other opportunities and accepted a position in the Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E) to learn more about what it took to write a good proposal—although he actually did not spend any time evaluating proposals in his new role. He talks about meeting and marrying his wife, adjusting to life in Washington, DC, and working in the Office of the DDR&E. He also mentions what it was like to work at the Pentagon during the Vietnam War and discusses spending a brief time in Vietnam as a civilian. After five years of government work, Augustine was ready to return to industry and accepted a position at LTV Corporation in Dallas, Texas. He discusses transitioning to life in Texas and working in management and compares working in government and working in industry. After three years at LTV, Augustine accepted a position back at the Pentagon as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Development. He talks about the confirmation hearing, life working in the Pentagon, and receiving promotions. After Gerald R. Ford’s (1913-2006) term was up, however, he planned to return again to industry and accepted a job at Martin Marietta. Augustine discusses Bendix’s hostile takeover attempt of Martin Marietta, becoming CEO, and the Challenger disaster and the fall of the Berlin Wall. After the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the government called defense companies together for a “Last Supper” meeting to discuss the need for defense companies to merge and consolidate, which led to Martin Marietta transitioning to Lockheed Martin.

Augustine describes his work on government committees, including being appointed by George H. W. Bush (1924-2018) to oversee a committee focused on the space program, his involvement with the President’s Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), the goals and structure of PCAST, and the role science and technology should play in government. He concludes by comparing the Defense Science Board and PCAST, talking about buying the first share of Lockheed Martin stock, and noting his gratitude to civil servants.

This interview was conducted remotely via Zoom.

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Interviewee
Interviewer
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  • 95 pages
  • 6h 6m 25s
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Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewers

Kenneth M. Evans is a scholar in science and technology policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. He received his B.S. in physics from the University of Virginia and his M.S. and Ph.D. in applied physics from Rice University. His research focuses on the history and organization of the U.S. federal science advisory and policymaking system, with an emphasis on the role of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

David J. Caruso earned a BA in the history of science, medicine, and technology from Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and a PhD in science and technology studies from Cornell University in 2008. Caruso is the director of the Center for Oral History at the Science History Institute, president of Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region, and editor for the Oral History Review. In addition to overseeing all oral history research at the Science History Institute, he also holds an annual training institute that focuses on conducting interviews with scientists and engineers, he consults on various oral history projects, like at the San Diego Technology Archives, and is adjunct faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, teaching courses on the history of military medicine and technology and on oral history.  His current research interests are the discipline formation of biomedical science in 20th-century America and the organizational structures that have contributed to such formation.

Kirstin R. W. Matthews is a fellow in science and technology policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and a lecturer in the Department of BioSciences at Rice University. Matthews manages the activities of the Baker Institute Science and Technology Policy Program, and the Center for Health and Biosciences’ Biomedical Research Program. Her research focuses on ethical and policy issues at the intersection between traditional biomedical research and public policy. Specifically, she focuses on regulation and ethical issues associated with emerging biotechnology, including vaccines, stem cells and genomic medicine. Matthews also leads a project to review scientific advice in and to the federal government, including the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Matthews has a BA in biochemistry from The University of Texas at Austin and a PhD in molecular biology from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Physical location

Department
Collection
Oral history number 1116

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

Born
  • July 27, 1935
  • Denver, Colorado, United States

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1957 Princeton University BSE Aeronautical Engineering
1959 Princeton University MSE Aeronautical Engineering

Professional Experience

Douglas Aircraft Company

  • 1959 to 1961 Research Engineer
  • 1961 to 1963 Program Manager
  • 1963 to 1965 Chief Engineer

United States. Department of Defense. Office of the Secretary of Defense

  • 1965 to 1970 Assistant Director of Defense Research and Engineering

LTV Missiles and Space Company

  • 1970 to 1973 Vice President of Advanced Programs and Marketing

United States. Department of the Army

  • 1973 to 1975 Assistant Secretary of the Army (R&D)
  • 1975 to 1977 Under Secretary of the Army
  • 1976 Acting Secretary of the Army

Martin Marietta Corporation

  • 1977 to 1982 Vice President of Technical Operations
  • 1982 to 1985 President, Denver Aerospace
  • 1985 to 1986 President, Information Systems Group
  • 1987 to 1995 CEO
  • 1988 to 1995 Chairman

National Academy of Engineering

  • 1980 Chairman

United States. Defense Science Board

  • 1981 to 1983 Chairman

Association of the United States Army

  • 1982 President and Chairman

United States. Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program

  • 1990 Chairman

American Red Cross

  • 1992 to 2001 Chairman and Principal Officer

President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (William J. Clinton)

  • 1994 to 2001 Member

Boy Scouts of America

  • 1994 to 1996 President

Lockheed Martin

  • 1995 to 1997 President, Chairman and CEO

Princeton University

  • 1997 to 1999 Lecturer with the Rank of Professor

In-Q-Tel

  • 1999 Founder

President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (George W. Bush)

  • 2001 to 2009 Member

Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee

  • 2009 Chairman

U.S. Antarctic Program Blue Ribbon Panel

  • 2011 Chairman

United States Energy Security Council

  • 2011 Member

Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, Department of Energy

  • 2019 Member

Honors

Year(s) Award
1952 Eagle Scout
1983 Member, National Academy of Engineering
1991 National Space Club Goddard Award
1992 Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1992 Rotary National Award for Space Achievement National Space Trophy
1994 Silver Buffalo Award
1994 Electronic Industries Association Medal of Honor
1995 Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement
1997 The Washingtonian's Business Leader of the Year
1997 National Medal of Technology and Innovation
1997 The NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal
2001 IEEE-HKN Eta Kappa Nu Eminent Member
2002 Space Foundation's General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award
2004 USO's Freedom's Finest Award
2006 Public Welfare Medal, National Academy of Sciences
2006 The Harold W. McGraw Hill, Jr. Prize in Education
2006 BENS [Business Executives for National Security] Eisenhower Award
2007 Bower Award for Business Leadership from the Franklin Institute
2008 NAA Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy
2009 IRI Medal from the Industrial Research Institute
2009 The American Chemical Society Public Service Award
2010 NAS Award in Aeronautical Engineering from the National Academy of Sciences
2011 Drexel University Engineering Leader of the Year
2011 The Wings Club Distinguished Achievement Award
2012 Character Education Partnership's American Patriot of Character Award
2012 Montgomery County Business Hall of Fame
2012 Industry Week Manufacturing Hall of Fame
2014 Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, Lifetime Achievement Trophy
2014 Arthur C. Clarke Lifetime Achievement Award
2015 Advisory Board, Journal of Science Policy & Governance
2015 American Astronautical Society Space Flight Award
2015 Tech Council of Maryland Lifetime Achievement Award
2015 International Von Karman Wings Award
2016 Air Force Distinguished Public Service Award
2016 Maryland International Business Leaders Award
2016 Lockheed Martin Corp. Organizational Leadership Development Program Award
2016 National Institutes of Health Director’s Award
2016 National Defense University Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award
2016 Sigma Xi Honorary Scientific Research Inaugural Gold Key Award
2016 American Red Cross National Capital Region Lifetime Service Award

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The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

2 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads